Tips for planting during the North's cold spring. By Up Here staff.
It’s spring! – meaning Arctic gardeners are twiddling their green thumbs while the snow melts. Yeah, up here, there’s not much of a growing season. We asked five experts how to get a jump on it.
Roy Ness, an instructor in the Master Gardening course at Yukon College, has an atrium on the south side of his house where seedlings thrive in February and tomatoes mature in May. His trick? He circulates hot water through pipes in the soil. One year, he grew a 250-pound pumpkin in there.
Dwayne Wohlgemuth, chair of the Yellowknife Community Garden Collective, built a greenhouse on his roof, which he says pushes his growing season ahead by a month. “It was minus-10 outside and hit 30 in the greenhouse,” he says. “It’s incredible the solar gains you get up there.”
Stephen Badhwar, who runs an organic market-garden outside Atlin, B.C., built long, narrow greenhouses over a creek flowing from Atlin Warm Springs. “With the water running right through, it’s warm in here in early springtime,” he says. By May, tomatoes and strawberries are ready to eat.
Lone Sorenson, who runs Yellowknife’s Seeds of Success workshop, says a greenhouse isn’t essential. She suggests you put landscaping fabric over outdoor beds. You’ll be at least two weeks ahead, she says, and have a warm, wind-proof microclimate during the first month of growing.
Randy Lamb, head of Whitehorse’s Downtown Urban Gardeners Society, suggests speeding up the thawing of your soil. Bury black plastic drainage culverts in your beds, placing them six-inches deep with a few inches protruding. “You’ll get natural convection,” he says. “It’ll thaw out the ground.”